With offseason workouts beginning next week at Redskins Park, Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a look at the team's strengths and offers storylines to watch. Up next: interior offensive linemen.
Heading into last season, one of the Redskins' biggest question marks was the state of the offensive line.
The Redskins were coming off a 5-11 season in which the offense ranked a pedestrian 16th in the NFL in total offense, and a paltry 25th in rushing offense.
But the Redskins found comfort in continuity, re-signing center Will Montgomery and left guard Kory Lichtensteiger.
At the time, Lichtensteiger was still recovering from a traumatic knee injury suffered in Week 7 vs. the Carolina Panthers. After tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL), his long-term status was in question.
To help bolster the unit's depth, the Redskins drafted offensive guards Josh LeRibeus with the 71st overall pick and Adam Gettis with the 141st overall pick.
LeRibeus's selection was the highest by an SMU Mustang since the NCAA Death Penalty, and was a surprise to most draft gurus, who had him ranked lower. But the Redskins trusted their draft board and added two quality young linemen.
Behind a healthy interior line and consistent tackles, the offense improved to the No. 5 overall offense in 2012, boasting the top rushing attack in the NFL.
Heading into 2013, the Redskins are set to return all three interior linemen, with experienced young depth also in the mix for playing time.
Redskins' interior offensive linemen currently under contract for next season: Montgomery, Lichtensteiger, Chris Chester, Maurice Hurt, Gettis LeRibeus and Pat Boyle.
Players no longer on the roster: Jordan Black.
Considering the rapport he developed with quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins, Montgomery is expected to retain his spot center in 2013.
Montgomery has been a model of consistency during his time in Washington, starting all 33 games in the last two seasons. His sprained MCL is not expected to have lingering effects in 2013.
Lichtensteiger rebounded remarkably well from his 2011 injuries, starting all 16 games for the first time in his career last year and being recognized with the team's Ed Block Courage Award.
Veteran right guard Chris Chester has been an anchor for the line since coming over from Baltimore in 2011. He is the only lineman to start all 33 games at the same position, and was key in opening holes for Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III last season.
Chester and Lichtensteiger will be challenged by Hurt, Gettis and LeRibeus this offseason, as the team seeks the best combination of talent on the line.
Adding to his versatility last offseason, Hurt took reps at both the guard and tackle positions during training camp and the preseason. This versatility paid off, as he earned a spot start at right tackle in place of a concussed Tyler Polumbus in Week 16.
Hurt is likely to move primarily back to guard in 2013, which should allow him to fine-tune his craft. The former seventh-round pick appeared in 13 games last season.
LeRibeus was viewed by many as a project with a lot of upside, but paid early dividends in his rookie campaign by appearing in five games.
The coaching staff rewarded his hard work down the stretch, as he appeared in the division-clinching games against the Eagles and Cowboys before appearing in the team's playoff game vs. the Seattle Seahawks.
Gettis appeared in no regular season games in his rookie campaign, but gained valuable experience in the preseason, starting three games in place of Lichtensteiger. Look for his workload to increase with his development.
Boyle was a 2012 member of the Detroit Lions' and Redskins' practice squads and has no NFL experience after being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Temple.
The Redskins could still add more depth in free agency and the draft, but this group closely resembles a strength of the team in 2012.
NFL Interior Linemen Available In Free Agency
As of April 2, 2013; names listed are in no particular order:
--Brandon Moore, New York Jets: Moore hasn't missed a start since 2004, providing the Jets with a consistent face in the middle of the offensive line. During his time in New York, the Jets finished in the top-five in rushing three times.
--Jordan Black, Washington Redskins: The Redskins signed Black essentially out of retirement last training camp, forcing him to hustle into shape. Black is primarily a offensive tackle, but brings experience at the guard position as well and already understands the offensive scheme. He appeared in 14 games for the Redskins last season.
--Dan Koppen, Denver Broncos: Having spent his career snapping to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, Koppen understands the responsibilities of handling an elite franchise quarterback. Koppen (33) may not have much left in the tank, but would provide veteran experience for Montgomery and Griffin III.
Collegiate Interior Linemen Available In The Draft
As of April 2, 2013; names listed are in no particular order:
--Chance Warmack, Alabama: Widely considered one the best interior linemen in the draft, Warmack should be off the board long before the Redskins select at No. 51. Warmack is partially responsible for the hype behind NFL running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, blowing open huge holes for them to run through during their time at Alabama. He could go in the top-10 picks, but stranger things have happened.
--Justin Pugh, Syracuse: Despite his 6-4, 307-pound figure, Pugh has short arms for an offensive tackle, making it hard to ward off pass rushers, which could move him inside. Pugh has good mobility and balance which should allow him to excel in a read-option offense where linemen must flow down the line of scrimmage. Should be available in the middle of the second round.
--Kyle Long, Oregon: Long comes from good NFL pedigree, as the son of Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long and brother of St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long. Unlike his defensive-minded family members, Kyle Long will make his living on offense, and has been called the best athlete in his family. Long should be available at the end of the second round and will need seasoning after originally pursuing a baseball career.